With warmer days right around the corner it’s time to think about sun protection. While the importance of sunscreen has been well-drilled into our brains, our skin isn’t the only part of our body that needs protection from UV rays. Our eyes are also susceptible to UV damage—and can even be sunburned! Known as photokeratitis, this “sunburn of the eyes” can cause red eyes, a gritty feeling in the eyes, sensitivity to light and tearing.
Exposure to UV radiation can damage eyes, aging them prematurely and leading to conditions such as cataracts, damage to the retina and age-related macular degeneration. Children are particularly susceptible to eye damage from UV exposure as the lenses in their eyes are more transparent and filter out fewer rays, allowing more UV radiation to reach the retina.
To protect your eyes from UV radiation, be sure to choose sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. Select a pair that shields your eyes from the sun from most angles, or wear a hat with your sunglasses. The American Optometric Association also recommends picking a pair of sunglasses that are perfectly matched in color, free of distortion and have gray lenses for proper color recognition. A good rule of thumb is to wear sunglasses anytime you apply sunscreen and vice versa. If you wear contacts, be sure to choose a brand that offers UV protection. Not all contacts provide UV protection, and the ones that do offer varying levels of protection, so be sure to talk to your eye doctor about the options.
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